Colgan expands frequency of first officer check rides

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Colgan Air intends to increase the frequency of proficiency check rides for its first officers starting next year, surpassing FAA requirements.

Starting in January, the regional operator will require its first officers to undergo proficiency check rides in a simulator every six months. Current FAA regulations require thechecks once a year for first officers and every six months for captains.

The airline began developing new flight crew safety measures last fall and most likely would have implemented its new check ride policy even if a Colgan Bombardier Q400 had not been lost this year, Colgan vice president of flight operations Harry Mitchel tells ATI. He adds the accident "might have expedited the process".

A Colgan Q400 crashed on approach to Buffalo, New York in February.

A lot of factors had to be addressed to bolster the frequency of proficiency check rides for the carrier's 220 first officers, Mitchelsays.

Crew qualifications software was not programmed to look at a six-month cycle for first officers, extra simulator time has to be scheduled in advance and enough check airman have to be available, Mitchel explains.

Pilot training and professionalism wereat the center of subsequent accident hearings with both the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Congress.

The captain involved in the Colgan crash had multiple FAA certificate disapprovals involving flight checks conducted before his employment with Colgan.

However, the captain disclosed only one of his three failed check rides on his job application, a spokesman for Colgan parent Pinnacle said earlier this year.

Colgan hired the captain in September 2005, which was before the FAA issued an advisory circular in November 2007 to inform airlines that they can ask pilots to sign a consent form giving the carrier access to any notices of disapproval.

The Colgan captain involved in the crash did not initially pass flight tests for the instrument flight rating in October 1991, the commercial pilot certificate in May 2002 and the multiengine certificate in April 2004. With additional training, the captain subsequently passed each of the flight tests.